Female polar bear and her two cubs near Churchill, Manitoba. Photo by Travel Manitoba

By Zac Unger
17 December 2012

On January 24, 2004, in the frigid moonscape of an Arctic winter, wildlife biologist Steven Amstrup rode in a helicopter flying low over the ice. Using an infrared heat detector, he hoped to find polar bears in their dens. When the gun recorded a hit, Amstrup circled around for a closer look. What confronted him was something he had never seen in 34 years of research. The mouth of the den was open, and a smear of bright-red blood stretched away for more than 200 feet. At the end of a long drag trail in the ice lay the still-warm body of a female polar bear. The air temperature was 20 degrees below zero; this bear could not have been dead for more than 12 hours.

Polar bears do not have enemies. A male can weigh 1,500 pounds, with paws a foot wide and savage teeth. They are the unchallenged master predators in the harshest environment on Earth. A full-grown bear slaughtered in her den is far outside the ordinary.

Amstrup and his team returned by snowmobile. The dead female had multiple wounds to her neck and head, and the snow was stained by heavy arterial bleeding. Her skull had been pierced by a long tooth that slammed into her brain. Her hindquarter, belly, and mammaries were partially eaten.

Inside the den, Amstrup found two tiny cubs, each weighing less than five pounds. Both were dead, suffocated by the thick snow of the ruined cave. A single set of massive footprints led directly to the den. The footprints followed a typical hunting pattern—the stalker meandered around in a wide arc, then beelined for the spot where the mother and cubs were resting. There was only one explanation for this carnage: the bear and her cubs had been killed by another polar bear.

Cannibalism is not normal polar bear behavior. Seals are easier to catch and their meat has more calories per pound than bear meat. But over the course of that single season, Amstrup witnessed two additional instances of cannibalism. Having never seen anything like this, he was shocked to stumble across three separate incidents in one year. But as he spoke to colleagues, he found that cannibalism was becoming more common. In the Svalbard Archipelago, 450 miles north of Norway, three small cubs had been found dead inside their den. Although polar bears sometimes kill each other, these were the first recorded instances in which the killing took place at the supposedly safe haven of a den.

The past decade has been particularly difficult for polar bears. The summers of 2002, 2003, and 2004 saw a sharp increase in ice-free water. Between 1987 and 2003, scientists saw 12 polar bears swimming in open water, miles out from the edge of the pack ice. But in 2004 alone, scientists saw 10 bears swimming in open water, several as far as 110 miles offshore. Even more alarming, scientists found four polar-bear carcasses floating in the sea; they had apparently drowned while attempting to swim from one ice floe to the next. Never before had scientists seen even a single drowned bear. On land, the scientists found that half the bears were lean or emaciated. In western Hudson Bay, near the town of Churchill, Manitoba, a 2007 study told a grim tale: in less than 20 years, the local bear population had plummeted from 1,194 to 935, a decline of more than 20 percent. Around the Arctic, the pattern was consistent, and scientists were building the case that polar bears were the first in a long series of future calamities attributable to global warming.

Amstrup, who had written many of the papers detailing the bears’ precipitous decline, was beginning to understand the carnage; the polar bears were turning to cannibalism because they were starving to death.

Or at least that’s how it was reported. […]

The Fuzzy Face of Climate Change

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous said...

    Shocking, and very sad. Eating your own is the pathway to extinction.

    I've taken the liberty to repost this with a few changes:

    On January 24, 2024, in the sweltering heat of an American spring, wildlife biologist Steve Amtop rode in a helicopter flying low over the parched ground. Using an infrared heat detector, he hoped to find some human survivors in abandoned houses. When the gun recorded a hit, Amtop circled around for a closer look. What confronted him was something he had never seen in the past 20 years of research. Outside a wrecked house, a smear of bright-red blood stretched away for more than 200 feet. At the end of a long drag trail through dried weeds lay the still-warm body of a human female. The air temperature was over a 110 degrees above; the woman could not have been dead for more than 12 hours.

    Humans do not have natural enemies except each other. A male human can weigh over 250 pounds or more. They are the unchallenged master predators in every environment on Earth. A full-grown human slaughtered in her home for food is considered far outside the ordinary.

    Amtop and his team returned by on foot. The dead female had multiple wounds to her neck and head, and the ground was stained by heavy arterial bleeding. Her skull had been pierced by a long knife that slammed into her brain. Her hindquarter, belly, and mammaries were partially eaten. Long strips of meat were removed from her back and legs.

    Inside the wrecked home, Amtop found two tiny children, each weighing less than five pounds from malnutrition. Both were dead, suffocated by the collapsed walls of the ruined house. A single set of footprints in the dust led directly to the house. The footprints followed the typical hunting pattern — the stalker meandered around in a wide arc, then beelined for the spot where the mother and children were hiding. There was only one explanation for this carnage: the mother and kids had been killed by another human.

    Cannibalism is not normal human behavior. Over the course of that single season, Amtop witnessed two additional instances of human cannibalism with many more unconfirmed reports coming in from around the once prosperous nation. Having never seen anything like this, he was shocked to stumble across three separate incidents in one year. But as he spoke to colleagues, he found that cannibalism was becoming more common among the human survivors in North America. In the ruins of New York City alone, 450 miles to the north, thirty three small children had been found dead inside their homes. Most had been eaten. Although humans often kill each other, these were the first recorded instances in which the killing took place for food. Starvation was the reason.

    The past decade has been particularly difficult for human survivors. The summers of 2018, 2019, and 2020 saw a sharp increase in massive levels of drought, with some areas being hit with significant flooding. Between 2015 and 2020, scientists estimated that the local human population had plummeted from hundreds of millions in North America to less then 300,000. Around the nation, the pattern was consistent, with huge levels of die-off and depopulation.

    Scientists were building the case that human survival was now the last "event" in a long series of calamities directly attributable to global warming and the complete failure of the world governments to address this issue when there was still time.

    Amtop, who had written many of the papers detailing the precipitous decline, was beginning to understand the horrifying carnage; humans were turning to cannibalism because they were literally starving to death. The environment had been completely denuded and stripped of all life, there was nothing else left to eat.  

  2. Leilani Jones said...

    The problem with man is man studying the world because he can't do it in a way that removes his importance within that environment. We all know that there is a warming, probably caused by man to a big degree. So what? If man can research and discover this but refuses to see the solution isn't in anything but reducing the human species because he is of that species then what is the point? I would be the very researchers of this article have children. They, more than most humans, should realize there is no need to breed at this point and time but because they remove themselves as part of the problem, they cannot post a realistic solution. The only solution to saving other species is to reduce our own. It doesn't start with murder, genocide and forced sterilization. It starts with a country like America , using media and example by the intelligent. All you see in our media is how wonderful it is to make lots of babies. That influences the world greenies. Start with yourselves and make the choice to not have your little greenie babies and maybe the rest of the world will accept no children or a greatly reduced number of children as a good way to live. You want to save Polar bears? Don't bear children! The planet can't grow. We, as humans will have to reduce and it begins with all of you who want to save every single freaking species.  

  3. CaliBoy1990 said...

    @Anonymous: Uh.....WTF? This wouldn't even make good sci-fi. In fact, it's not even close to plausible; if you're going to rewrite this, you could have at least TRIED to put some real thought behind it. SMH.....  

 

Blog Template by Adam Every. Sponsored by Business Web Hosting Reviews